Ezekiel 36:25
Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(25) Sprinkle clean water.—Comp. Hebrews 9:13; Hebrews 10:22. Ezekiel, the priest, here refers to those manifold purifications of the Law (e.g., Numbers 8:7; Numbers 19:9; Numbers 19:17; Leviticus 14:5-7; Leviticus 14:9, &c.) which were performed by means of water; yet he refers to these as a whole, in their symbolical signification, rather than to any one of them in particular. He speaks primarily of the cleansing from idolatry and such gross outward sins, and he treats of the people collectively; yet this purification, as the following verses show, must necessarily extend much farther, and be applied to them individually. It was the same symbolism which led in later ages to the use of baptism in the admission of proselytes to the Jewish Church, a practice adopted by the forerunner of our Lord in the preparation of the people for His coming. Baptism is also alluded to by our Lord Himself in His conversation with Nicodemus (John 3:5.) and afterwards established by Him as the initiatory sacrament of the Christian Church. (Comp. Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 10:22.)

Ezekiel

THE HOLY NATION

Ezekiel 36:25 - Ezekiel 36:38
.

This great prophecy had but a partial fulfilment, though a real one, in the restored Israel. The land was given back, the nation was multiplied, fertility again blessed the smiling fields and vineyards, and, best of all, the people were cleansed ‘from all their idols’ by the furnace of affliction. Nothing is more remarkable than the transformation effected by the captivity, in regard to the idolatrous propensities of the people. Whereas before it they were always hankering after the gods of the nations, they came back from Babylon the resolute champions of monotheism, and never thereafter showed the smallest inclination for what had before been so irresistible.

But the fulness of Ezekiel’s prophecy is not realised until Jeremiah’s prophecy of the new covenant is brought to pass. Nor does the state of the militant church on earth exhaust it. Future glories gleam through the words. They have a ‘springing accomplishment’ in the Israel of the restoration, a fuller in the New Testament church, and their ultimate realisation in the New Jerusalem, which shall yet descend to be the bride, the Lamb’s wife. The principles involved in the prophecy belong to the region of purely spiritual religion, and are worth pondering, apart from any question of the place and manner of fulfilment.

First comes the great truth that the foundation, so far as concerns the history of a soul or of a community, of all other good is divine forgiveness {Ezekiel 36:25}. Ezekiel, the priest, casts the promise into ceremonial form, and points to the sprinklings of the polluted under the law, or to the ritual of consecration to the priesthood. That cleansing is the removal of already contracted defilement, especially of the guilt of idolatry. It is clearly distinguished from the operation on the inward nature which follows; that is to say, it is the promise of forgiveness, or of justification, not of sanctification.

From what deep fountains in the divine nature that ‘clean water’ was to flow, Ezekiel does not know; but we have learned that a more precious fluid than water is needed, and have to think of Him ‘who came not by water only, but by water and blood,’ in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of our sins. But the central idea of this first promise is that it must be God’s hand which sprinkles from an evil conscience. Forgiveness is a divine prerogative. He only can, and He will, cleanse from all filthiness. His pardon is universal. The most ingrained sins cannot be too black to melt away from the soul. The dye-stuffs of sin are very strong, but there is one solvent which they cannot resist. There are no ‘fast colours’ which God’s ‘clean water’ cannot move. This cleansing of pardon underlies all the rest of the blessings. It is ever the first thing needful when a soul returns to God.

Then follows an equally exclusively divine act, the impartation of a new nature, which shall secure future obedience {Ezekiel 36:26 - Ezekiel 36:27}. Who can thrust his hand into the depths of man’s being, and withdraw one life-principle and enshrine another, while yet the individuality of the man remains untouched? God only. How profound the consciousness of universal obstinacy and insensibility which regards human nature, apart from such renewal, as possessing but a ‘heart of stone’! There are no sentimental illusions about the grim facts of humanity here. Superficial views of sin and rose-tinted fancies about human nature will not admit the truth of the Scripture doctrine of sinfulness, alienation from God. They diagnose the disease superficially, and therefore do not know how to cure it. The Bible can venture to give full weight to the gravity of the sickness, because it knows the remedy. No surgery but God’s can perform that operation of extracting the stony heart and inserting a heart of flesh. No system which cannot do that can do what men want. The gospel alone deals thoroughly with man’s ills.

And how does it effect that great miracle? ‘I will put My Spirit within you.’ The new life-principle is the effluence of the Spirit of God. The promise does not merely offer the influence of a divine spirit, working on men as from without, or coming down upon them as an afflatus, but the actual planting of God’s Spirit in the deep places of theirs. We fail to apprehend the most characteristic blessing of the gospel if we do not give full prominence to that great gift of an indwelling Spirit, the life of our lives. Cleansing is much, but is incomplete without a new life-principle which shall keep us clean; and that can only be God’s Spirit, enshrined and operative within us; for only thus shall we ‘walk in His statutes, and keep His judgments.’ When the Lawgiver dwells in our hearts, the law will be our delight; and keeping it will be the natural outcome and expression of our life, which is His life.

Then follows the picture of the blessed effects of obedience {Ezekiel 36:28 - Ezekiel 36:30}. These are cast into the form appropriate to the immediate purpose of the prophecy, and received fulfilment in the actual restoration to the land, which fulfilment, however, was imperfect, inasmuch as the obedience and renewal of the people’s hearts were incomplete. These can only be complete under the gospel, and, in the fullest sense, only in another order than the present. When men fully keep God’s judgments, they shall dwell permanently in a good land. Israel’s hold on its country was its obedience, not its prowess. Our real hold on even earthly good is the choosing of God for our supreme good. In the measure in which we can say ‘Thy law is within my heart,’ all things are ours; and we may possess all things while having nothing in the vulgar world’s sense of having. Similarly that obedience, which is the fruit of the new life of God’s Spirit in our spirits, is the condition of close mutual possession in the blessed reciprocity of trust and faithfulness, love bestowing and love receiving, by which the quiet heart knows that God is its, and it is God’s. If stains and interruptions still sometimes break the perfectness of obedience and continuity of reciprocal ownership, there will be a further cleansing for such sins. ‘If we walk in the light, the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin’ {Ezekiel 36:29}.

The lovely picture of the blessed dwellers in their good land is closed by the promise of abundant harvests from corn and fruit-tree; that is, all that nourishes or delights. The deepest truth taught thereby is that he who lives in God has no unsatisfied desires, but finds in Him all that can sustain, strengthen, and minister to growth, and all that can give gladness and delight. If we make God our heritage, we dwell secure in a good land; and ‘the dust of that land is gold,’ and its harvests ever plenteous.

Very profoundly and beautifully does Ezekiel put as the last trait in his picture, and as the upshot of all this cornucopia of blessings, the penitent remembrance of past evils. Undeserved mercies steal into the heart like the breath of the south wind, and melt the ice. The more we advance in holiness and consequent blessed communion with God, the more clearly shall we see the evil of our past. Forgiven sin looks far blacker because it is forgiven. When we are not afraid of sin’s consequences, we see more plainly its sinfulness. When we have tasted God’s sweetness, we think with more shame of our ingratitude and folly. If God forgets, the more reason for us to remember our transgressions. The man who ‘has forgotten that he was purged from his old sins’ is in danger of finding out that he is not purged from them. There is no gnawing of conscience, nor any fearful looking for of judgment in such remembrance, but a wholesome humility passing into thankful wonder that such sin is pardoned, and such a sinner made God’s friend.

The deep foundation of all the blessedness is finally laid bare {Ezekiel 36:32} as being God’s undeserved mercy. ‘For Mine holy name’ {Ezekiel 36:22} is God’s reason. He is His own motive, and He wills that the world should know His name,-that is, His manifested character,-and understand how loving and long-suffering He is. So He wills, not because such knowledge adds to His glory, but because it satisfies His love, since it will make the men who know His name blessed. The truth that God’s motive is His own name’s sake may be so put as to be hideous and repellent; but it really proclaims that He is love, and that His motive is His poor creatures’ blessing.

To this great outline of the blessings of the restored nations are appended two subsidiary prophecies, marked by the recurring ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ The former of these {Ezekiel 36:33 - Ezekiel 36:36} deals principally with the new beauty that was to clothe the land. The day in which the inhabitants were cleansed from their sins was to be the day in which the land was to be raised from its ruin. Cities are to be rebuilt, the ground that had lain fallow and tangled with briers and thorns is to be tilled, and to bloom like Eden, a restored paradise. How far the fulfilment has halted behind the promise, the melancholy condition of Palestine to-day may remind us. Whether the literal fulfilment is to be anticipated or no seems less important than to note that the experience of forgiveness {and of the consequent blessings described above} is the precursor of this fair picture. Therefore, the Church’s condition of growth and prosperity is its realisation in the persons of its individual members, of pardon, the renewal of the inner man by the indwelling Spirit, faithful obedience, communion with God, and lowly remembrance of past sins. Where churches are marked by such characteristics, they will grow. If they are not, all their ‘evangelistic efforts’ will be as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.

The second appended prophecy {Ezekiel 36:37 - Ezekiel 36:38} is that of increase of population. The picture of the flocks of sheep for sacrifice, which thronged Jerusalem at the feasts, is given as a likeness of the swarms of inhabitants in the ‘waste cities.’ The point of comparison is chiefly the number. One knows how closely a flock huddles and seems to fill the road in endless procession. But the destination as well as the number comes into view. All these patient creatures, crowding the ways, are meant for sacrifices. So the inhabitants of the land then shall all yield themselves to God, living sacrifices. The first words of our text point to the priesthood of all believers; the last words point to the sacrifice of themselves which they have to offer.

‘For this moreover will I be inquired of by the house of Israel.’ The blessings promised do not depend on our merits, as we have heard, but yet they will not be given without our co-operation in prayer. God promises, and that promise is not a reason for our not asking the gifts from Him, but for our asking. Faith keeps within the lines of God’s promise, and prayers which do not foot themselves on a promise are the offspring of presumption, not of faith. God ‘lets Himself be inquired of’ for that which is in accordance with His will; and, accordant with His will though it be, He will not ‘do it for them,’ unless His flock ask of Him the accomplishment of His own word.

Ezekiel 36:25. I will sprinkle clean water upon you — The expression here alludes to those legal purifications which were made by sprinkling water upon the unclean persons: see Numbers 8:7; Numbers 19:13. But the cleansing intended is plainly that of the soul, by the blood of Christ sprinkled upon men’s consciences to take away their guilt, (see Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 12:24,) and by the grace of the Holy Spirit sprinkled on the whole soul, to purify it from all corrupt inclinations and dispositions; both which blessings are received by faith in Christ, and in the promises of God made through him: see Galatians 2:16; Galatians 3:14; Acts 15:9. From all your filthiness — Filthiness, as the apostle expresses it, of flesh and spirit; from all unhallowed appetites, passions, and dispositions; from all impurity of heart and life; from every thing contrary to the mind of Christ, the image of God, or the divine nature; and from all your idols will I cleanse you — From all internal as well as external idolatry; from putting that trust in the work of your own hands, or in any creature, which you ought to put only in your Creator; or from setting your affections on any person or thing in preference to him, who is your Redeemer and Saviour, your Friend and Father, your portion and treasure, your God, and your all. Observe, reader, sin is of a defiling nature; idolatry particularly is so; it renders sinners odious to God, and unhappy in themselves; but when our guilt is pardoned, and our corrupt nature sanctified, then we are cleansed from this filthiness; and there is no other way of being saved from it. This God promises to his people here, in order to his being sanctified in them, Ezekiel 36:23. We cannot sanctify God’s name, unless he sanctify our hearts, nor live to his glory, but by his grace.

36:25-38 Water is an emblem of the cleansing our polluted souls from sin. But no water can do more than take away the filth of the flesh. Water seems in general the sacramental sign of the sanctifying influences of the Holy Ghost; yet this is always connected with the atoning blood of Christ. When the latter is applied by faith to the conscience, to cleanse it from evil works, the former is always applied to the powers of the soul, to purify it from the pollution of sin. All that have an interest in the new covenant, have a new heart and a new spirit, in order to their walking in newness of life. God would give a heart of flesh, a soft and tender heart, complying with his holy will. Renewing grace works as great a change in the soul, as the turning a dead stone into living flesh. God will put his Spirit within, as a Teacher, Guide, and Sanctifier. The promise of God's grace to fit us for our duty, should quicken our constant care and endeavour to do our duty. These are promises to be pleaded by, and will be fulfilled to, all true believers in every age.Ezekiel the priest has in view the purifying rites prescribed by the Law, the symbolic purport of which is exhibited in Hebrews 9:13-14; Hebrews 10:22. As the Levites were consecrated with sprinkling of water, so should the approved rite "sprinkling of water" thus prescribed by the Law and explained by the prophets, give occasion to the use of water at the admission of proselytes in later days, and so to its adoption by John in his baptism unto repentance. It was hallowed by our Lord when in His discourse with Nicodemus, referring, no doubt, to such passages as these, He showed their application to the Church of which He was about to be the Founder; and when He appointed Baptism as the sacrament of admission into that Church. In this sacrament the spiritual import of the legal ordinance is displayed - the second birth by water and the Spirit. As Israel throughout the prophecy of Ezekiel prefigures the visible Church of Christ, needing from time to time trim or purification - so does the renovated Israel represent Christ's mystical Church Ephesians 5:26. The spiritual character of the renovation presumes a personal application of the prophet's words, which is more thoroughly brought out under the new covenant (e. g., Hebrews 11:16). Thus the prophecy of Ezekiel furnishes a medium through which we pass from the congregation to the individual, from the letter to the spirit, from the Law to the Gospel, from Moses to Christ. 25. The external restoration must be preceded by an internal one. The change in their condition must not be superficial, but must be based on a radical renewal of the heart. Then the heathen, understanding from the regenerated lives of God's people how holy God is, would perceive Israel's past troubles to have been only the necessary vindications of His righteousness. Thus God's name would be "sanctified" before the heathen, and God's people be prepared for outward blessings.

sprinkle … water—phraseology taken from the law; namely, the water mixed with the ashes of a heifer sprinkled with a hyssop on the unclean (Nu 19:9-18); the thing signified being the cleansing blood of Christ sprinkled on the conscience and heart (Heb 9:13, 14; 10:22; compare Jer 33:8; Eph 5:26).

from all your idols—Literal idolatry has ceased among the Jews ever since the captivity; so far, the prophecy has been already fulfilled; but "cleansing from all their idols," for example, covetousness, prejudices against Jesus of Nazareth, is yet future.

He alludes to the sprinklings under the law, perhaps to that Numbers 19:9, which was for purification of sin; and Ezekiel 36:19,20. So God will purify them from their guilt. Clean water: some think it may refer to baptismal water; if so, it is to the blood of Christ, signified by it, and this, say the best expositors, is here intended, and this is

the blood of sprinkling, Hebrews 12:24.

Ye shall be clean; when sin is remitted, the person is indeed clean, both in the account of God and Christ.

From all your filthiness; though they have been many of all sorts, and among all ranks of men, yet multitude of sins shall not hinder me from pardoning.

From all your idols; that notorious great abomination, your multiplied idolatry, I will pardon that also, that ye may be clean. Thus remission of sin is promised.

Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you,.... Not baptismal water, as Jerom; an ordinance indeed of the Gospel, and to which the Jews will submit when converted; and which is performed by water, but not by sprinkling, nor does it cleanse from sin; and is administered by men, and is not an operation of God, as this is: rather the regenerating grace of the Spirit; though this does not purify from all sin, and besides is intended in the next verse: it seems best to understand it of the blood of Christ, the blood of sprinkling, and of justification from sin, and pardon of it by it; so Kimchi and Jarchi interpret of purification by atonement; and the Targum is,

"I will forgive your sins, as one is cleansed by the water of sprinkling, and the ashes of a heifer, which is for a sin offering:''

and ye shall be clean from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you; the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin; by it men are justified from all things, and are made perfectly pure and spotless in the sight of God; they are cleansed from original sin, the pollution of their nature; from all actual sins and transgressions, which are very defiling; from sins of heart, lip, and life; even from such as are idols, set up in the heart, and served.

Then will I sprinkle clean {n} water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.

(n) That is, his spirit by which he reforms the heart and regenerates his. See Geneva Isa 44:3

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
25. Dogmatically, sprinkling with clean water might seem merely to express the idea of the forgiveness of past sins. The figure is taken from the washings by which ceremonial defilement was removed, and the figure is part of the idea. By their relation to the idols and service of them the people contracted uncleanness. And when the kind of service which this was is considered, the debasing forms which it took, and the immoralities which accompanied it or formed part of it (Hosea 4:13-14), the depth of defilement will be understood and the strong figure Ezekiel 36:17 will not appear too strong.

Verse 25. - Then (literally, and) I will sprinkle clean water upon you. The second step in the sanctification of Jehovah's Name, and one absolutely necessary to render the preceding either permanent or valuable, was the moral renovation of the people; and in this the first stage was the forgiveness of the people's sins. The image under which this is set forth, "sprinkling with clean water," would naturally present itself to a priest-prophet such as Ezekiel. Jarchi, Rosenmüller, Hengstenberg, and others suppose the allusion to be to the water of purification prepared by mixing running water with the ashes of a red heifer (Numbers 19:17-19), and in the account given of this rite the verb for "sprinkle" is that used by Ezekiel, viz. זָרַק. Havernick prefers the rite performed in the consecration of the Levites (Numbers 8:7, 21). Smend, who holds the priest-code had no existence in Ezekiel's day, traces the image to Zechariah 13:1 or Psalm 51:2, though he also cites Numbers 8:19. Hitzig, Kliefoth, and Currey think of the lustrations of the Law in general; and perhaps this best explains the prophet's language, since the element sprinkled is not "blood" or "water mixed with ashes," but "clean water," "the best known means of purification" (Schroder). As to whether legal or moral cleansing were intended by the prophet, possibly Ezekiel drew no sharp distinction between the two, such as the New Testament draws between justification and sanctification; if he did, then the figure in the text must be taken as alluding rather to the former than to the latter - rather to the forgiveness of Israel's sin than to the regeneration of Israel's heart, which is next referred to. Ezekiel 36:25For His holy name's sake the Lord will bring Israel back from its dispersion into His own land, purify it from its sins, and sanctify it by His Spirit to be His own people. - Ezekiel 36:22. Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, I do it not for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for my holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the nations whither ye have come. Ezekiel 36:23. I will sanctify my great name, which is profaned among the nations, which ye have profaned in the midst of them, so that the nations shall know that I am Jehovah, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, when I prove myself holy upon you before their eyes. Ezekiel 36:24. I will take you out of the nations, and gather you out of all lands, and bring you into your land, Ezekiel 36:25. And will sprinkle clean water upon you, that ye may become clean; from all your uncleannesses and from all your idols will I cleanse you, Ezekiel 36:26. And I will give you a new heart, and give a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh, and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:27. I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and keep my rights, and do them. Ezekiel 36:28. And ye shall dwell in the land which I have given to your fathers, and shall become my people, and I will be your God. - These verses show in what way the Lord will have compassion upon His holy name, and how He will put an end to the scoffing thereat, and vindicate His honour in the sight of the heathen. "Nor for your sake," i.e., not because you have any claim to deliverance on account of your behaviour (cf. Isaiah 48:11 and Deuteronomy 9:6), but for my holy name's sake, i.e., to manifest as holy the name which has been profaned among the heathen, I do it, namely, what follows from Ezekiel 36:23 onwards. The Lord will sanctify His name, i.e., show it to be holy by proving Himself to be holy upon Israel. קדּשׁ is not equivalent to glorify, although the holiness of God involves the idea of glory. Sanctifying is the removing or expunging of the blots and blemishes which adhere to anything. The giving up of His people was regarded by the heathen as a sign of the weakness of Jehovah. This blot through which His omnipotence and glory were dishonoured, God would remove by gathering Israel out of the heathen, and glorifying it. Instead of לעיניכם, the ancient versions have rendered לעיניהם. This reading is also found in many of the codices and the earliest editions, and is confirmed by the great Masora, and also commended by the parallel passages, Ezekiel 20:41 and Ezekiel 28:25, so that it no doubt deserves the preference, although לעיניכם can also be justified. For inasmuch as Israelites had despaired in the midst of their wretchedness through unbelief, it was necessary that Jehovah should sanctify His great name in their sight as well. The great name of Jehovah is His almighty exaltation above all gods (cf. Malachi 1:11-12). The first thing that Jehovah does for the sanctification of His name is to bring back Israel from its dispersion into its own land (Ezekiel 36:24, compare Ezekiel 11:17 and Ezekiel 20:41-42); and then follows the purifying of Israel from its sins. The figurative expression, "to sprinkle with clean water," is taken from the lustrations prescribed by the law, more particularly the purifying from defilement from the dead by sprinkling with the water prepared from the ashes of a red heifer (Numbers 19:17-19; compare Psalm 51:9). Cleansing from sins, which corresponds to justification, and is not to be confounded with sanctification (Schmieder), is followed by renewal with the Holy Spirit, which takes away the old heart of stone and puts within a new heart of flesh, so that the man can fulfil the commandments of God, and walk in newness of life (Ezekiel 36:26-28; compare Ezekiel 11:18-20, where this promise has already occurred, and the necessary remarks concerning its fulfilment have been made). - With regard to the construction 'עשׂה את אשׁר , to make or effect your walking, compare Ewald, ֗337b.
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